In the Pacific Northwest, indoor recess is de rigueur from November to March. At least. The Garden Party at the Funny Farm still happens every afternoon, rain or shine, but enthusiasm ebbs during the winter. Even Princess Blur goes out each afternoon to play chicken for an hour, but she’s eager to return indoors well before dusk. That’s 4:15 PM in December.
When the outdoor hens decide to stay in the barn all afternoon- indoor recess- I don’t take Princess out. If they aren’t going to come out into the garden, it’s probably too cold and wet for a tiny hen with a heart murmur.
I thought that sheep from the Shetland Islands would be okay with rain, but no. We built a nice roof over their pen and they hang out in there when the rain is overwhelming. Bev, a Muscovy duck has been inviting herself in, too.
Have you seen Hamish and Bev’s video? Slightly off-topic, but I’m not sure it didn’t start when Bev went looking for shelter from the weather.
We thought the incessant rain was bad and then it snowed. And then the temperatures plummeted.
We have hummingbirds year round here, so it becomes a nightly game called “Will the hummingbird feeders freeze tonight?” If I take the feeders in at night, I need to take them out at dawn, when the hummers start to feed. When it’s cold out, they pouf out downy feathers over their feet to keep warm, like they are wearing little tiny down slippers. If I manage to get a photo of that, I’ll quit my day job.
I have ten doves outside. They are very tough but they get hungry when it’s cold. Of course, their water freezes overnight. Years of experience have taught me to be careful where I toss the ice. If it doesn’t thaw for a week, I can end up with a treacherous pile of ice shards that make it hard to walk around. Ice maintenance seems like an awfully fussy consideration until that morning when I can’t open the gate past a hasty midden pile of ice.
The heat lamps emerge with the snow. They all love them, but heat lamps are inherently dangerous. That’s how fires start in barns and finding charred wood near a lamp is scary. I have friends who have had the fire department out. So I only bring them out when the animals are cold enough to actively use them. I’ve had two going this year, already.
The sheep love the snow. They eat it, they cavort and gambol, they do everything but roll around in it. They have deep, dense fleece. I can stick my hand up into it nearly to my wrist. It’s warm and dry in there. I look at those skinny velvety legs and marvel at how they stay warm. After poor snow-hating Dobby, and worrying about frostbite, this is a welcome change.
The snow reveals other wonders. Look at the tracks in the snow, above. That’s a cottontail rabbit track in the center. Tiny tracks, solitary: did he drop from the sky? I have only seen one bunny in the front yard, long ago. Dobby loved that bunny, but he only hung out here for about a week. Or so I thought. Is he still out there? I have seen them next door, so I shouldn’t be surprised that I have (at least) one here.
What is going on with my hens? On snowy days they stay in the barn, jockeying for position under the two heat lamps. Rainy days they prefer to cram themselves under this kiddie slide. Five chubby hens must generate enough heat to make it nice and toasty under there. These are the days– barn days and under-slide days– when Princess Blur has a treat in her living room pen and gets marched upstairs to go to bed right after her afternoon meds. They are the days when I hide in my little greenhouse and pretend it is warmer in there.
True indoor recess occurs when I give up and let the sheep rampage through the aviary. I have to put up the chicken food and heat lamp hazards, and the ducks glare at me, but it’s a big treat for the sheep to be able to explore in there. If the weather was good enough for me to be in there taking photos and making videos, there would be evidence of this excitement. Maybe if we ever have a summer storm. Meanwhile, I am afraid to look: they’ve got access to the aviary now. My only hope for getting them out of there at bedtime is that they are fools for saltine crackers. Anything for a saltine!
So, the snow is long gone, but the rain has returned with a vengeance. The sheep are hoping for more snow. I am hoping for summer. Take a look at my poor basement. That’s six inches of water. Sigh.
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Did you know that Prince Dobalob is featured in a book you can read for free? Before you get too excited, the book isn’t finished, yet, but it’s close enough that I am putting it up serially on Dobby’s website. Check it out!